The Al Messilah, an aging Kuwaiti-flagged live animal export vessel, was forced back to the port on August 12 after experiencing a mechanical failure less than a day after it departed for the Middle East.
“The mechanical failure has not affected the ventilation, feed and water systems for the 67,000 sheep onboard”, said Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in a statement. “The vessel is being assessed to determine if immediate repairs can be conducted, or whether the ship will need to be dry-docked. If the ship cannot be repaired within a reasonable period, the sheep can be unloaded and moved directly to a nearby feedlot that is an AQIS-approved registered facility.”
Animal cruelty watchdog RSPCA Australia, however, is up in arms over the incident, saying it “highlights the inherent risks in transporting animals over such vast distances by sea, risks that the industry has never been able to address.”
“The journey to the Middle East was already going to take up to 20 days and that these sheep have already been in limbo for seven days is completely unacceptable” the agency said in a statement posted to their website. “The live export ship in question is understood to be one of the oldest vessels in the live export fleet – the Al Messilah, a converted car carrier that has a history of mechanical problems.”
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is working with the vessel’s master and the exporter to maintain the welfare of the animals.